Carl Starfelt's imperious Celtic numbers vs Hibs; what a performance

By Euan Davidson

January 18, 2022

Celtic defender Carl Starfelt clearly set out to defy his critics last night, and he dominated in a stand-out performance for the Bhoys against Hibernian.

The Swedish defender, who endured a couple of difficult outings against Ross County and in the Premier Sports Cup Final, has been questioned of late. However, there’s no argument that last night, he turned on the style for Celtic.

Mostly, because it’s objectively the case.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Of 12 duels, Starfelt won 10. He won 6 aerial battles, not losing a single one. Not only that, he made an impressive trio of interceptions, won 3 of 4 tackles, and finished with a pass success rate of 85%. Many of his distributions were progressive, too; of his 40 passes, 12 were in Hibs’ half [Fotmob].

If that’s not enough, he also cleared the ball twice, while even chipping in with a key pass on the night. If Starfelt had extra motivation from reading recent discourse around him, it showed.

Or, it’s perhaps that many are too quick to judge the former Rubin Kazan centre-back. Rejoined with Cameron Carter-Vickers in the heart of the Celtic back-line, nothing was getting past them once they settled into the game. It was exactly the kind of performance that was needed from Starfelt.

Celtic 2-0 Hibernian | LIVE Reaction

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Carl Starfelt won’t get the headlines but was imperious for Celtic against Hibs

Obviously, it’d be a bit weird if the back pages were covered with the image of Carl Starfelt. Given the performances of Daizen Maeda and Reo Hatate, our Swedish centre-back has a fight for column inches.

But he deserves major credit. We know Hibs can be dangerous, as their goals against us in 3-1 and 2-1 defeats against Celtic proves. As an attacking outfit, Shaun Maloney is well-equipped there.

Starfelt, though, had other ideas.

It wasn’t just his defending, though. It seems the winter break has done him some good. His attacking intent, and ability to win the ball across the pitch, is really important. For a centre-back not necessarily used to the role Ange Postecoglou has given him, it was always going to take time.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Yet, barring a couple of dodgy performances, he’s generally fit in well. It’s no surprise that Celtic have the best defensive record in the Scottish Premiership.

Starfelt won’t win Player of the Year, nor will he necessarily attract songwriters like Jota or Kyogo. He is, however, a solid signing in his own right.

Games like last night prove it.

Read more: SPFL boss set to “revisit” move for Celtic defender Urhoghide